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Rob Allen Deep 4 by Jake Wolf

Rob Allen Deep 4

  • Chambered alder body
  • Hawaiian koa top
  • Bolt-on 5 piece birdseye maple/ebony neck
  • Lined gaboon ebony fingerboard
  • Fishman undersaddle piezo pickup
  • Master volume with 2 band EQ
  • Labella “Deep talkin bass” tapewound strings
  • 34” scale
  • Tung oil/polyurethane hand rubbed finish
  • Hipshot ultralight tuners

It’s hard to explain one of Rob Allen’s basses to someone who has never seen, played, or heard one. Rob is a rare kind of builder; he has created a niche for himself in the business by following his passion to create instruments based on his own preferences, and his desire to form something unique and original. Part acoustic, part electric, Rob’s basses blur the division between the two. The result is something that exists between the lines, and follows no template other than its own.   Hand made by a staff of 3 in a small California shop, Rob builds his basses and guitars, in addition to making parts for several other builders.  He sent me his new creation, the Deep 4, and from the moment I opened the faux alligator case lined with crushed gold velvet, it was love at first sight.

The Deep is one of the newest branches of the Rob Allen family tree.  As the name suggests, the body is slightly thicker than his other series, with a very narrow center block.  Both of these attributes help to maximize the acoustic properties of the Deep.   Its seductive and elegant single cutaway design is both modern and classic; its lines stunningly clean, with just the right amount of adornment and detail.  Essential to the Deep’s tonal formula is the combination of an alder body with a beautiful Hawaiian Koa top.  The bolt on 5 piece neck is constructed from laminates of Birdseye maple and ebony, and is capped with a lined fretless Gaboon ebony fingerboard.

One essential element of the Rob Allen magic is his use of Labella’s “Deep Talkin Bass” nylon tapewound strings, in combination with a Fishman undersaddle piezo pickup. The two work together to produce a snappy yet warm tone, with ample buttery low end, lots of midrange texture and note bloom, and a surprising amount of crisp treble.  I found the Deep 4 to have a sound that was woody and natural, and very “un-electric”.   The bass exudes a uniquely organic and pliable feel, and is almost addictive in its ability to resonate and respond as an amplified acoustic instrument.

On the gig and in the studio, the Deep 4 performed flawlessly.  Its effortless playability, featherweight, and uber comfy neck shape made it a breeze to play without fatigue for extended periods of time.  I brought it to the studio for a demo session with a slide guitar player and a percussionist, and the Deep 4 made my job easy.  (Click to hear an audio clip) With little to no eq’ing, the bass sat perfectly fat and round in the mix, with just the right amount of low end heft and punch.  Its electronics performed beautifully, no noise or buzz of any kind was apparent.  Band mates and studio engineers gushed over how gorgeous and fantastic sounding they thought the bass was.  On a blues gig, the Deep 4 provided a huge but round and defined bottom end, and sat in the mix in a very pleasing and appropriately voiced way.

The controls for the Deeps’ electronics are smartly integrated into the handmade ebony bridge. Typically Rob’s basses have a single volume knob located just next to the string saddle on the bridge plate.  The Deep 4’s electronics include a 2 band eq, placing the volume knob on the treble side of the bridge saddle, and the stacked bass/treble knobs on the bass end of the saddle.  While I love this setup, as it maintains the overall clean aesthetic and earthy feel, I found the stacked knob to be a little cramped and hard to manipulate, with my large fingers.  I quickly got used to it, but it didn’t allow me to perform quick or fluid EQ changes like a traditional knob layout might.

Many pro players remark that their Rob Allen is the next best thing to having an acoustic upright on hand.  While I know a lot of die hard upright players that would never quit playing their doghouse in favor of an electric, this bass does have some sort of intoxicating warmth and woody expression that I’ve never encountered in another electric bass. Rob Allen basses exquisitely blend the familiar form factor and layout of an electric bass, with certain features and aesthetics that are quintessentially reminiscent of acoustic upright basses.   In doing so, he’s effectively broadened range of tones that are possible to achieve from an electric bass, and he’s done it with no small amount of style or finesse.

More info, options, and pricing on the web at www.roballenguitars.com

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. cooke harvey

    June 14, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Nice review. Any neck dive and is it 2 octave? Really enjoyed the piece, beautiful sound.

  2. todd

    August 5, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    My Deep 5 has no neck dive (nor does my MB-2). My Deep 5 weight 7.1 lbs, the MB-2 (4-string) is 6.1 lbs. It is not a 2-octave neck – equivalent of 21 fret. You can grab a high E on the G string. Rob’s basses are my first-call for most gigs. They work beyond just the “upright vibe” niche. The piezo has a really fast attack and the notes are huge. You can dial some bass out, a bit of mids in, and funk the night away.

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